MSN and MCI Offering VOIP PC to Phone Calling
Microsoft’s MSN has stepped up with its plans for VOIP outbound calling and has followed Yahoo, SkypeBay and AOL with its VOIP PC to Phone calling offering. The Microsoft MSN Messenger VOIP PC to Phone service is powered by a partnership between the Redmond, WA compnay and MCI (which is being acquired by Verizon).
The official name of the VOIP offering is MCI Web Calling for Windows Live(TM) Call, which will be made available via Windows Live Messenger, the upcoming successor to MSN Messenger. According to Microsoft, MSN Messenger has more than 185 million active accounts around the world. The MSN MCI offering combines Windows Live software, advanced voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capabilities and the strengths of MCI’s expansive global network to “give consumers an easy-to-use, convenient and cost-effective way to stay connected.”
MCI and Microsoft are testing the service as part of a Windows Live Messenger limited beta with subscriptions initially available in the United States, and expect to jointly deliver the PC-to-phone calling capabilities to France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks. Once subscribed to the service, customers can place calls to and from more than 220 countries with rates starting at $.023 per minute to the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe during the beta testing period. Upon sign-up, MCI Web Calling customers will receive up to one hour of free calls. Final pricing will be determined when the product officially launches in 2006.
Given Microsoft Live’s innovative, search oriented launch and its use of Ajax technology for the customization of the live web based information driven desktop, expect some intriguing applications to be offered for the community and call management interface. Greg Sterling of Kelsey Group is already matching up the VOIP offering with Local Search : “This is undoubtedly a prelude (at some future point) to PPCall (via VoIP) integration for local merchants through Windows Live Local.”